by Chris Brodbeck ’18
Just how does the electoral college work?
With the installation of President Donald J. Trump as the forty-fifth president of the United States, many people throughout the United States are still questioning his leadership and even how he got into office. In this article, though, I will not be discussing whether Russia hacked the election in favor of Trump; a more fundamental question is what role the Electoral College plays in every presidential election.
Now, according to NPR, Hilary Clinton received almost 2.1 million more votes than President Trump. This fact leads many people to raise questions about the Electoral College. Many are saying it is undemocratic and does not go along with the people, and, believe it or not, that is what it was built to not do. The United States is not a democracy; we are a republic.
The issue goes all the way back to 1787 and the Constitutional Convention. There was great discussion about the smaller states feeling oppressed by the bigger states with greater populations. New Jersey and Rhode Island wanted an equal representation of the states, while bigger states (Pennsylvania and Virginia, at the time), wanted representation by population.
The men in the room realized that they would not have a country without everyone’s help, so they decided on both. Very creative. There would be a Congress focused on the will of the people, with representatives elected or re-elected every two years, and therefore remaining more accountable to the people’s will. Then there would be a Senate, whose members would be elected every six years, and which would focus on the state’s needs, with each state being given two senators no matter what.
The main reason the founders did not want to have a democracy (besides the fall of Athens, the quick conversion from democracy to a republic in Rome and the divisiveness in other democratic communities down through history) was that they did not want two wolves and a lamb deciding what is dinner. (You get that?) So they went with being a republic.
Now, one might be thinking that is unfair. However, when one casts their vote for Hillary or Donald they are casting their votes for a panel of men/women who will vote for their choice of candidate. In half the states, the panel is forced to vote for the candidate the state wants, but in all the other states voters actually vote in a panel of people who will hopefully vote the way the state voted.
In Washington State this year, there was a person who voted for an Indian chief. A vote like that is mainly a throw away or protest vote.
Wyoming, according to statistics of people and population, has more electoral voting power than California. It is meant to be that way. We are NOT a democracy. The founders wanted the candidate to focus his attention throughout the United States and not only in the south, north, east, coastal west, Midwest, or southwest. They wanted the candidate to have appeal throughout the states, so the states would have the voting power to determine how many senators/congressmen they would have. The candidate has to appeal to city workers and farmers in order to gain control of the electoral map.
This is a control mechanism that is used to stop a specific populace from gaining power, which by the way does not work out all the time, as is obvious if you consider the elections of Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt (3rd and 4th term), and Donald Trump.
One criticism of the system is that, under it, candidates usually focus on bigger swing states and not little states. In 2000, however, George W. Bush won not just the state of Florida, but also West Virginia, a safe democratic state, after it flipped to being a Republican state, winning Bush five electoral votes. This last election, Donald Trump campaigned in northern Maine and he gained one extra electoral point for campaigning in a four elector state.
The Electoral College is a safeguard against campaigning only in populous states, encouraging presidential hopefuls to appeal to a range of people throughout the United States because this country has a range of different beliefs and backgrounds.
You may like that idea or not, but that is the way it is. We live in a republic, not a democracy.